This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and this year they are focusing on stress and how to tackle it. Stress is something pretty much every Londoner knows about, because as much as we love this city, it isn’t half stressful: huge crowds, tube delays, grim commutes, hideous rent, vying for promotions and always trying to keep up. And whilst we know that there is so much more to London, we also know that sometimes we all need to take a step back, give ourselves a chance to recharge and to remind ourselves that you know what? It really is ok to not be ok all the time. No one is a superhuman, we’re just Londoners and sometimes we need to slow down.
What: A Problem Halved is a Problem Shared
Why: Talk. It’s the most simplest way to relieve stress, to talk through your problems. Yet as a nation we don’t seem to like to open up about our worries, and two thirds of us feel like we have no one to turn to when it comes to talking about our mental health problems. If you can, find someone to talk to, as well as just being there to listen, they can offer a new perspective and give advice. If you don’t feel like you can speak to anyone you know then try a charity such as the Samaritans or Calm who are both open daily (Samaritans is 24/7). And if you know someone who is suffering from stress then be there to listen and don’t ever make them feel like their problems aren’t real, 1 in 4 of us will be affected with a mental health problem at some time in our lives we need to be there for each other.
What: Better Than the Tube
Why: We spend a lot of time in London cooped up, sitting at desks, packed together on the tube or trying to get a seat at a pop-up. Admittedly the weather doesn’t help, but one of the best ways to reduce stress is getting outside and walking. It’s good for your physical health, your bank balance and your mental health. It’s thought that if you’re physically active then you have up to a 30% reduced risk of becoming depressed or if you are suffering then it can help relieve symptoms. Walk to work, walk along the Thames, head out to one of the parks or Hampstead Heath and just take stock, without your phone.
The Digital Detox
What: Put Down the Phone
Why: Whether it’s your boss messaging you late at night for something “urgent” or you’ve found yourself falling down the Instagram hole and now you can’t stop scrolling, being connected all the time is not good for us. We’re comparing ourselves to edited lives, we’re feeling like we have to respond straight away, we’re constantly multi-tasking and it can be exhausting. Not to mention we wasted valuable hours when we could be sleeping commenting and liking. And less sleep = more stress. So try it, switch off your phone, buy yourself a proper alarm clock, stick to your office hours (easier said than done) and if you’re struggling to detox then check out It’s Time To Log Off who run classes for individuals and companies.
Let it All Out
What: Get Singing
Why: When you’re stressed the last thing you might want to do is sing. But, singing can reduce stress, letting it all out, uplifting your mood and getting the good chemicals in my brain going. Whether you sing in the car, at church, in a group or you head somewhere like Piano Works, Studio 88 or Lucky Voice; get a group of your friends together and just sing. It doesn’t matter if you can’t hold a note or you’re tone death, just belt it out and forget the stresses of the day.
What: Unwinding and Relaxing
Why: A favourite amongst The Handbook team, sound baths give you a chance to switch off your mind and to just focus on your breathing and being calm. Lie in a darken room on a comfy mat and just let the soothing sounds envelope you whilst the therapeutic tones allow you to unwind and relax. It’s a whole hour dedicated to you, without your phone and without any distractions. If you can’t make it to a sound bath then download an app like Calm which will talk you through guided meditations and breathing techniques and you can do them any time anywhere.
Relieve the Physical Symptoms
What: Best London Spas
Why: Whilst it might not be as easy to tackle the anxiety and mental health aspect of stress then you can help relieve the physical symptoms such as headaches and tension. Check out our guide to some of the best spas in London where you can relax and be pampered and whilst they might more expensive your health is something to invest in. Alternatively check out items such as massage balls and rollers which can help to alleviate tension in your feet and muscles.
Website: 8 of London's Best Spas
Work Up a Sweat
What: Focus on the Challenge
Why: Exercise is one of the best ways to release stress, 1) because it gets the endorphins flowing and 2) because you’re so focused on the energy, the music, reaching the goal (and just getting to the end) that you don’t have the time to wonder about all the hundreds of daily thoughts we have each day. Check out the rooftop series the Trafalgar St James for a new kind of work out, or just grab your trainers and get running.
Website: Check Out This Class
What: More Zzzs
Why: This couldn’t come at a better time as today they are reporting on the news that there is thought to be a link between lack of sleep and depression. Even without the news though we all know that not getting enough sleep leaves us feeling frazzled in the morning and often more emotional throughout the day, feeling like we can’t cope with the problems the day throws at us as we’re just so tired. So how to get more sleep? Small changes can help such as not being on our phones late at night, drinking less alcohol, going to sleep at the same time, getting enough exercise throughout the day and doing things to wind down before we go to bed like having a bath or reading. If you do have to stay up late then miss that early morning gym class, your health isn’t just about physical exercise and sometimes an extra hour in bed will give you more benefits than getting up for that HIIT class. If you are having trouble sleeping then check out the NHS website for more advice.
What: Do Good, Feel Great
Why: You know that warm fuzzy feeling you get when you help someone out, maybe you’re buying a Big Issue, helping someone with the luggage or just giving up your seat on the tube when you just really want to sit down? Well the act of doing something for others actually helps us too and can help to alleviate stress too. If you haven’t heard of the Good Gym then you need to get involved. It’s a volunteer group that runs to different community projects such as helping with gardening, serving food to the homeless and visiting older people. So not only are you meeting new people, you’re doing good and exercising. 3 in 1.
What: Prioritise and List
Why: Stress can often leave us feeling like we don’t have a control on things, so one of the best ways is to prioritise and get everything under control. If that means cancelling your plans for brunch to go to the bank to discuss your finances or to spend an extra morning in the office to get on top of that project then whilst it might be tiresome, it will be better in the long run. Equally lists, yes it might sound obvious but getting everything written down and put in order of what is urgent and what can wait, can help to clear your mind and help you to get a handle on the situation.